Anyone who has watched the progress of the outstanding young people that make up Team UK knows the enormous amount of work that is required to reach that international standard.
What is talked about less often, however, by those not immediately connected to WorldSkills UK, is that they don’t do this on their own. Supporting them every step of the way is a tireless group of team leaders, training managers, teaching and support staff in college – to name but a few of the unsung heroes of WorldSkills.
Their contribution is truly astonishing – from emotionally supporting young people through years of local, regional, national and finally international competition to organising local contests for hundreds of competitors to ensuring young people on Team UK are fed and watered and not distracted from the task at hand.
Take training managers, for example. Their commitment to their competitor is unparalleled – so much so many of them support their training and travel to skills tests and competitions in their spare time, using up precious holiday. At international competitions, I have over the years spent hours watching them, pacing like caged tigers trying desperately not to step to close to their competitors, unable to help them, but feeling every challenge they are facing and every stumbling block thrown in their way.
I have watched them embrace at the end of a hard competition cycle, in tears, proud and relieved as they look back on the hundreds of hours spent together in workshops, training centres and classrooms on the road to this point.
Meanwhile, team leaders have spent their day assessing what the competitors may need – whether it is food not available in the competition venue, an extra bottle of water, or an hour of quiet time without distraction before their competition starts. There are also the countless supporters behind the scenes – from employers to college lecturers.
The one thing they all share is that when all the points are counted and the celebrations start, the spotlight is never on them. But that is about to change. This year, the Tes FE Awards contain a new category – the WorldSkills Unsung Hero award – to recognise the dedicated professionals who go the extra mile to support the competitors.
So now, for the first time, the WorldSkills family can put forward those people who have dedicated themselves to those young competitors and ensure that their contribution is recognised and celebrated.
The Tes FE Awards are the biggest celebration of FE and skills in the UK and entries close on the 15 November. So make sure you get your entries in. Who has really stood out for you? Who do you think has gone the extra mile to help the competitors progress and deserves to be in the spotlight for a night of glitz and glamour at London’s Grosvenor House Hotel? It is time that unsung hero had their story told loud and clear.